Raritan Wins Sectional Title Before Suffering Heartbreaking Loss In State Championship Final Mike Ready


HAZLET – Raritan won its third sectional title in program history and first since 2012 easily beating Holmdel 56-12 to take home the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II title in somewhat of an anticlimactic match after they finally got by long-time nemesis Delaware Valley in the semifinals.


The Rockets had already beaten Holmdel 58-13 in the regular season and just as they did in that match, Raritan won 11 of 14 bouts to advance. 

Robert Taddeo (113), Mike Looay (120), Russell Benson (132), George Burdick (182) and Ethan Wolf (220) won by fall while A.J. Erven (138) and Nick Polaco (152) won by technical fall and Justin Acevedo (195) won by major decision for the Rockets. 

Delaware Valley has been a roadblock to the Rockets in their path to a sectional title since 2012. In 2013 the Terriers eliminated the Rockets in the sectional semifinals then the past three years DelVal has beaten Raritan in the finals, including last season when the Terriers went on to win the Group II title.  

With Raritan holding the No. 1 seed this year, the Terriers were forced to travel to Hazlet for their match and the Rockets made them pay with a resounding 50-9 victory in the semifinals.  

Entering the Group II tournament, No. 12 Raritan had to first get bye No. 13 Hanover Park – ranked third right behind the Rockets in the NJ.com Group II rankings. The Rockets clinched that match in the second to last bout when Mike Looney picked up a 7-5 decision over Dom Merola wrestling at 120 to give the Rockets a hard-fought 34-32 win.   

As thrilling as their win over Hanover Park was in the group semifinal, Raritan’s loss to eighth-ranked High Point in the final was that much more disheartening. 

The Rockets held leads of 21-3 and 25-6 entering the final six bouts of the match before allowing the NJSIAA Group II championship match to come down to the 14th and final winner take all bout after High Point won the previous five matches. 

It was up to Erven to save the day in the final bout of the day, but after High Points Billy Talmadge got the first take down Erven had to play catch-up and eventually lost the match 5-3 ending Raritan’s dream season in crushing fashion.  

 High Point (24-1) closed out the season with 16-straight dual meet wins after its only loss of the season.   

 The Rockets concluded the season with a 27-3 record while finishing twelth in the state and sent 10 wrestlers to the districts who have won at least 20 matches. Wolf and Benson tied for the team lead with 33-2 records while Burdick ended at 32-3.  

 The post-season continued with Teddeo (113), Benson (132), Erven (138), Christian Sookdeo (145), Anthony Aquilano (160) and Wolf (220) all winning District 20 titles and advancing to the Regionals.  

 In Region 5, six Rockets advanced to the state tournament as Benson (132) and Wolf (220) took home the gold while Erven (138) and Acevado (195) picked up the silver and Burdick (182) the bronze medal. Aquilano placed forth and will also be making the trip to Atlantic City for the state tournament as the top four finishers advance.  

 Raritan last won a state championship in in 2012 when they beat Delsea 30-28 in the Group II final.  

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